5 minutes reading time (1073 words)

"A Year From Now You'll Wish You Started Today"

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That's a quote attributed to author Karen Lamb -- with the intent to get you started on that project you've been putting off. What if that project you've been putting off is YOU?

I've been listening to podcasts and reading blogs about how to start off the new year on the right foot. A meme I found on social media suggested lifting your left foot in the air right as the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve. Get it? Start the year on your right foot? Well, I have a less corny and more effective way to offer. It has three practical steps.

Step 1: Write a 1-year Vision

If you look ahead to December 31, 2019, what does your life look like? What has changed? What hasn't? How are you different? What does it look and feel like to be you one year from now? Consider all the aspects of your life. What change do you want for yourself? What does it look and feel like when it's here?

Whether you write in paragraphs or bullet points, be as vivid in your description as you can. If you prefer, create a vision board with pictures, colors, sayings -- anything that helps you define your vision -- how it looks AND how it feels to have achieved it. Make your vision as real as possible. Don't worry about "how" you will do it yet -- we'll get to that soon. For now, capture the what, the end game.

When you think you have everything, read through your vision. Read it out loud to yourself if you can. Notice how you feel as you say the words, whether out loud or in your head. Are there any parts that you are neutral or less than neutral about? Are there any parts that defy physics? And are there any parts that feel like something you "should" do, rather than something you want for yourself? Consider revising those pieces or eliminating them.

Try on your vision like you would a pair of expensive jeans. It should look great and feel fabulous. Try it on as often as you need until it soundly resonates.

Step 2: Align your identity.

Your identity, who you think you are, defines what you will or won't do. To have what you want, who must you become?

For example: my husband has been working out at our local kick-boxing club for a year. He has invited me to join him for their "friends and family week" -- basically an opportunity for a free-trial -- every time it has been offered. I turned him down every time until this past December. It turns out, if I am going to achieve my fitness vision I have to become someone who works out. I have written here before about how much I have hated the gym. But to achieve my vision, I need to change that. Officially I will begin my membership and their 10 week transformation on January 5th. But I've been working out at 6 am every weekday since mid-December. I changed my identity. I've become a person who loves her workout every day at 6 am (new me). I used to be a person who slept in and needed her coffee first thing in the morning (old me).

The same old thinking brings the same old results. I didn't need to change my mind about loving the gym. I needed to change my mind about who I am -- my own identity. Your identity drives your actions. What do you need to change in your identity to BE the person who can DO what is necessary to HAVE your vision?

This new identity is already inside of you. To achieve your vision, you need to activate it.

Step 3: Create an Action Plan

You've defined your vision and considered who you need to BEcome to achieve it. Next, create an action plan. What will you DO?

I do this step a little different, utilizing a core principle from a traditional 12-step program. If you are an alcoholic, you can't go from drinking every day to never drinking again. That said, you can commit to not drink today. And you can make that commitment to yourself every day. Over time, the days add up. Soon it's 90 days, then 6 months, then a year without a drink. One day at a time. 

We can use this same idea to maintain alignment of our identity with our vision and goals.

Every day my alarm goes off at 5 am. Every day I decide to BE a person who gets out of bed and head to the gym for a 6 am workout. I choose to DO the action that reflects my new identity. I think about my vision and how it will feel to achieve it. That feeling pulls me out from under the covers and into the world.

You may find it helpful to break down your vision into 90 day increments. Using the 1-year vision, what does life look like in 9-months? 6-months? 3-months? Then, set specific goals for achieving the 3-month version. The 3-month version and its goals go on a dashboard -- you can make one that works for you.  Post the dashboard where you can see it every day. I track my progress each week.

Where I have not achieved goals, I have not aligned my identity and goals with my vision.

I've lost and gained, seen improvement and given up. I've abandoned goals within days of setting them. Do you know about "Quitter's Day"? It's the second Friday after January 1st -- the day by which most people have given up their New Year's resolutions. The number one reason we don't achieve a goal is because we quit. I can name a lot of my old excuses, but they all come down to one thing: alignment -- or rather, failure to align my vision with my identity and goals.

Real change starts with a decision to think about yourself differently. It sustains when you think about yourself in this new way every day. It means MAKING A CHOICE FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR VISION every day. Create your vision, align your identity, and break down your vision into segments and goals. Make this year the year you lead yourself well.

Who will you decide to BE this year? A year from now you'll wish you started today.

 

Thanks for Listening
Change is a Self-Leadership Challenge

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Sunday, 21 April 2019